Guest post by QPS parents Simon Cousins and Catherine Davis.
As Kepler’s parents, we have taken a close interest in QPS since before his first day. When we first moved to NYC, we established a small outpost for our company, Allegravita, a few buildings away from QPS. We noticed happy kids arriving and leaving every day, and the banner outside told us that they were at a school called Queens Paideia. Our first encounter with what would become Kepler’s beloved school was with QPS’s visual identity – the signage on the building.
At the end of the 2016-17 school year, Karyn and Francis asked us to explore a new visual identity for QPS. In our discussions, we impressed upon them that most people’s first encounter with a product or service is with the brand. QPS is no different in this regard.
At Allegravita, we believe it is incumbent on the provider of goods or services to encapsulate the values of its product in a concise and intriguing brand identity. That identity should communicate the immediate usefulness of the product and prompt subtextual (and often unconscious) thoughts. “That’s interesting…” is what we want prospective consumers to think, along with, “I’d like to know more.”
We love Queens Paideia School and are intrigued by how the QPS team delivers in practice the level of individualized education that the education reform movement keeps talking about. When Karyn and Francis gave us the green light to start our pro bono work, we went to those oh-so-important underpinning ideas that manifest in the fantastic kids we pick up from school each day.
So, what is a Paideia and why would I want one?
QPS deserves to be more widely recognized for its excellence.
Nobody in the QPS community would argue that the school offers anything less than excellence in education. QPS students enjoy an individualized education that goes beyond a mere curriculum of academic subjects. Its students are taught to become thoughtful, inquiring, learners from their first day of school.
The Paideia system is the basis of QPS’s successes.
What enables QPS students to achieve excellence in their academic and personal development are the combined factors of the Paideia Individualized Education (PIE) model. It’s a system that proactively supports the development of the “whole child” through academics, social-emotional learning, and cultivated self-management skills.
We know what QPS has. So what does it lack?
QPS has the PIE system, developed over decades by Dr. Francis Mechner and refined through the hard work of Karyn Slutsky and a stellar group of educators. However, QPS lacks a clear and confident voice in the marketplace of educational ideas. Outside of a circle of prominent educators and researchers, too few people have heard of QPS and its approach, or the ideas that underlie its success.
So Allegravita spent several months developing a new brand identity that reflects the fundamental values of QPS and works hard to embody the ideas within the Paideia system.
What does “Paideia” mean anyway?
The term “paideia” was coined by the ancient Greeks (Isocrates, 436–338 BC) to refer to the education and rearing of a valuable member of society. Striving for the ideal was emblematic of ancient Greek thinking: they identified the “golden ratio” – frequently found in geometry and nature – and incorporated it into many aspects of classical life. We recommended to Francis and Karyn that Queens Paideia’s new identity reference the golden ratio, among other things, as a symbol for an age-old ideal that lives on in the education of our children.
Creation of the brand identity.
Gratifyingly, Francis and Karyn loved the ideas we suggested for embedding the essence of “our” Paideia into its logo. We worked up a range of different visual approaches and settled on using the Greek letter φ (“phi”), which has represented the ratio for millennia. Accordingly, φ became our brand’s “hero.” Here’s how Allegravita summarized the linkage of the ideas behind QPS to φ:
Taking its name from the ancient Greek word, παιδεια – whose meaning today refers to education but whose ancient meaning referred to the unified concepts of education and cultural development – Queens Paideia School today embraces this unity of knowledge and cultural development in its refreshed brand identity.
The new brand identity pays homage to the philosophical roots of QPS with a nod towards the school’s innovative and responsive pedagogy as seen in its incorporation of the Greek letter φ and a color palette drawn from nature. The Greek letter φ representing the golden ratio, the balance between all things, is the crux of the brand and is stylized to represent both the letter and a tree, which symbolizes the growth that QPS students have in the classroom and as people. The φ becomes the stylized P in the word Paideia around which the rest of the school name is laid out. The pixilation in the left bowl of the φ transitions the φ into a modern English P representing too the movement from philosophical ideal to the foundational tenets of Queens Paideia School: an educational system that is at once individualized and supportive; student-focused and globally minded; analytical and self-reflective.
True to its linguistic roots, the Paideia system develops not just the intellect of a student, but also his or her character as confident, inquisitive, and contributive members of society.
We hope that you, fellow parents of QPS students, agree with us!
Execution of a “brand in action”
Over the 2017 summer break, the Allegravita team refined the visual representations of the hero brandmark, including choice of fonts and the primary and secondary color palettes, and then moved on to updating QPS’s website and other manifestations of the QPS brand. This has been an ongoing process, as QPS is a demonstration of educational excellence, not a business. We’re about half way through our top-to-bottom refresh of every “touch point” that QPS has with the world, and you’ll continue to see the new QPS brand pop up over coming weeks.
A call to action
Allegravita’s work for QPS – branding, marketing, the yearbook, or other assistances – is pro bono. We love our school because our kid loves his school, and our school loves our kid. We are thrilled with the strong, confident, kind young man we see Kepler growing into, and it is in large part due to the wonderful Paideia education he receives every day.
Not every parent owns an integrated communications agency, but pretty much every QPS parent possesses a network within which she or he has influence. We call the QPS community to action to support the objectives set by Franics, Karyn, and the QPS staff. As more people in our worlds learn about QPS, and the ideas that inform the education our kids, our school benefits. And as our school grows in strength and confidence, so do our kids.
Please consider talking about QPS in your daily life. We hope this short essay helps crystalize your own perspective on the role QPS plays in your child’s and your life.
Simon Cousins and Catherine Davis
New York City, 20 November, 2017